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The Brief: Nov. 20, 2015

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has courted controversy again via social media, this time appearing to compare Syrian refugees to a pile of rattlesnakes on a post to his campaign's Facebook page.

Sid Miller Facebook page. Image re-formatted for space.

The Big Conversation

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has courted controversy again via social media, this time appearing to compare Syrian refugees to a pile of rattlesnakes on a post to his campaign's Facebook page.

As the Tribune's Jim Malewitz reported, the post featured side-by-side photos of a crowd of refugees and a writhing mass of rattlesnakes.

“Can you tell me which of these rattlers won't bite you?" Miller's post asked. "Sure some of them won't, but tell me which ones so we can bring them into the house.”

Governors from about half of the states in the country, including Greg Abbott, have indicated that they do not want Syrian refugees relocated to their states in the aftermath of the attacks last week in Paris that killed as many as 129 people.

A spokesman later confirmed to the Tribune that Miller had created the post.

“This is a post that was placed by Commissioner Miller and unapologetically so,” Todd Smith, a campaign spokesman, said. “I think the post speaks for itself but, what he said was he would rather invite a rattlesnake into his home than an ISIS jihadist terrorist.”

A Miller repost of Malewitz's story on Facebook in which he said, "I have upset the mainstream media and the liberal leadership of the Democratic Party of Texas with my Facebook post," had drawn 2,387 likes by late Thursday night.

The agriculture commissioner caused controversy in August for a post to the same Facebook page that appeared to call for the atomic bombing of "the Muslim world."

Trib Must Reads

Cruz Looks to Secure Another Major Endorsement in Iowa, by Patrick Svitek – Fresh off winning the support of Iowa Congressman Steve King, Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz is looking to snag another major endorsement in the early voting Hawkeye State: social conservative kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats.

Analysis: The Blame Comes With the Fame, by Ross Ramsey – Somebody in public life does something stupid, or just controversial. Do you blame a staffer — a little person down in the basement — or do blame the officeholder who hired them? It really doesn't matter.

UH Regents Authorize Hiking Football Coach's Salary, by Matthew Watkins – Amid a successful first season, the University of Houston System Board of Regents voted Thursday to authorize school officials to more than double the salary of football coach Tom Herman to $3 million.   

Paxton's Attorneys Fire Back at Prosecutors, by Luqman Adeniyi – Lawyers in Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ongoing securities fraud case have fired back against special prosecutors in the latest in a series of back-and-forth court filings.

On 37-Mile March, Immigrants Slam Abbott, by Jay Root – Carrying placards, chanting in Spanish and calling for a halt to deportations of people without work papers, a few dozen immigrants and activists began their 37-mile “pilgrimage” Thursday from a federal detention facility to the Texas Governor’s Mansion.

UH System Speaks Out Against UT System Plans for Houston, by Matthew Watkins – Members of the University of Houston System Board of Regents lashed out against the University of Texas System's plans to expand in Houston, calling the idea a "Trojan horse" and passing a resolution expressing strong concerns.

San Antonio City Council Hikes Water Rates, by Kiah Collier – The San Antonio City Council on Wednesday unanimously — albeit cautiously — approved plans for a sizable water rate increase that will pay, in part, for a controversial, $3.4 billion water pipeline.

In Refugee Plan Vote, 5 Texas Democrats Go Against Obama, by Abby Livingston – Five Texas Democrats were among those who shrugged off a presidential veto threat and overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. until they go through a more intensive screening process.

Williams: Auto Amendment Was No Conflict, by Texas Tribune Staff – U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a second-generation auto dealer, says any suggestion that an amendment he tacked onto a massive transportation bill last week was a conflict of interest is preposterous.  

Study: Many Texas Students Graduated Without Passing Exams, by Eleanor Dearman – In Texas’ biggest school districts, most students who failed up to two state exit-level tests were allowed to graduate this year because of a new state law, according to a study by one of the law's biggest critics.

Farenthold, Former Staffer Resolve Sexual Harassment Suit, by Abby Livingston – A former staffer's sexual harassment suit against the office of U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold has been resolved with mediation, appearing to end an embarrassing chapter for the Corpus Christi Republican.

The Day Ahead

•   The Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee will have an 8:45 a.m. hearing to discuss veteran benefits exclusive to Texas residents and whether additional benefits make the state liable for lawsuits under the 14th Amendment. 

•   Gov. Greg Abbott will speak at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Sokol West Gym in West, Texas, at 2 p.m.. 

•   U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez will participate in an Affordable Care Act roundtable to discuss health care enrollment within the Latino community. The forum will take place Saturday at 9 a.m. in Austin.

Elsewhere

Speaker Paul Ryan taps Hensarling and Flores as key advisersThe Dallas Morning News

The gender divideAustin American-Statesman

Cruz stymied on effort to rush ban on Middle Eastern refugeesThe Dallas Morning News

Security fears rise amid report that two Syrian families tried to enter TexasHouston Chronicle

Cortez campaign complicated by Air Force deploymentSan Antonio Express-News

Reverse flow: More Mexicans depart U.S. than arriveThe Dallas Morning News

New poll: Americans oppose Syrian resettlementsHouston Chronicle

Federal judge orders Sandra Bland documents to be producedHouston Chronicle

Group says new law lets Texas students get away with subpar workAustin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

"That military exercises we were doing in Texas were designed to begin martial law so that I could usurp the Constitution and stay in power longer. Anybody who thinks I could get away with telling Michelle I’m going to be president any longer than eight years does not know my wife."

– President Barack Obama citing the speculation about the true purpose of Jade Helm as his favorite conspiracy theory

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A conversation about Health Care: The Next Five Years on Dec. 2 at the Texas A&M Health Science Center in Round Rock

•    A series of conversations about Bridging the Digital Divide on Dec. 4 at Houston Community College

•    A daylong symposium on Cybersecurity and Privacy on Dec. 9 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A conversation about Houston & the Legislature: What's Next? on Dec. 15 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

•    A conversation with former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove on Dec. 17 at the Austin Club

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